Dumbbells are one of the most popular types of fitness equipment you will see in gyms. Even people who work out at home usually have a pair or two lying around. So, what are dumbbells made of? This post compares the different types of materials used in dumbbells and what makes dumbbells the go-to equipment for functional strength training.
In addition, I compared the different shapes of dumbbells and how those can affect your workout sessions. If this is your first time trying out a dumbbell, you will learn how to choose the right set of dumbbells for your fitness level and goals.
For a complete comparison, I read many user reviews to understand the pros and cons of each dumbbell type, in addition to the basic features of each.
I will also be sharing my thoughts about one of the dumbbells on our list as I do have a pair that I use in some of my workout sessions.
Everything this article will cover:
– What dumbbells are
– Different types of dumbbells
– What are dumbbells made of
– Pros and cons of each types of dumbbells
– Which dumbbell is best for you
– Hex vs Round Vs 12-sided dumbbells
– Fixed vs Adjustable dumbbells
– Frequently asked questions about dumbbells
What are dumbbells?
Dumbbells are free-weight equipment commonly seen in gyms and used in weight and strength training.
Unlike barbells, dumbbells usually come in pairs but they can be used individually as well. Barbells are also longer and you need both hands to use them.
As with any weight training equipment, dumbbells can provide resistance with their different weight capacity. Dumbbells can help build muscle, especially with repetition.
Dumbbells not only work the upper body, but they can also be effective in developing your lower body. With the dumbbells, you can do a variety of dumbbell exercises such as:
– Dumbbell bench press
– Dumbbell shoulder press
– Dumbbell squat
– Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift, and many more
Since dumbbells are free weights, your stabilizer muscles work really hard to perform which makes it a go-to equipment by many.
What are dumbbells made of?
Dumbbells are made from different materials such as rubber, iron, and plastic. And they have coatings to protect the dumbbells from damage.
You will most commonly see cast iron dumbbells in
gyms but it is also popular amongst people who have their own gym at home.
Let’s look at the different dumbbells and what they are made of.
Plastic dumbbells or Vinyl dumbbells are made out of concrete or sand and are coated in synthetic plastic or PVC.
Plastic dumbbells are fixed-weight dumbbells and the weight ranges from 1kg to 10kg.
I personally use plastic dumbbells for some of my workouts. Since my goal is to just strengthen my upper body and core, I like how it comes in the lower weight ranges as I don’t need to lift heavy at the moment.
Benefits of Plastic Dumbbells
If you ever see those small colorful dumbbells, you are probably looking at plastic dumbbells.
These dumbbells can be seen as stylish because of their different colors and patterns. It is mostly catered to women or beginners because of the lower weight range.
I personally have a pair of 2kg vinyl dumbbells that I use in my training sessions. What I like about vinyl dumbbells is they give me enough resistance to work on specific muscles in my body, like my biceps and triceps.
The 2kg (4 lbs) dumbbells are effective enough for my strength training as I do not generally need or want to lift heavy weights.
If you are a beginner and want to start working with a dumbbell, you can use a 2kg (4 lbs) or 5 kg (11 lbs) weight as a starter.
Another thing I like about vinyl dumbbells is they are not prone to rust. I bought my pair of vinyl dumbbells years ago and it still looks good as new. It’s easy to clean and storing it is no problem as well since they are so small.
I also like that they come in different colors. So if you want to match your outfit with the dumbbells definitely get vinyl ones.
Vinyl dumbbells are also cheap. It can be a nice addition to your home gym if you are just starting out.
Disadvantages of Vinyl Dumbbells
While I do like my 2kg (4lbs) vinyl weights because of their low weight, you might find it limiting if you want to level up your weight training.
Most vinyl dumbbells are only up to 10kg (22 lbs) so if you want to lift something heavier, you have to get a new pair of dumbbells.
But there is one thing I don’t like about vinyl dumbbells. The grip is not good when your palms are sweaty. My palms sweat a lot so they can be slippery. I have to wipe the handle many times between reps so it can be a little distracting.
So if you have sweaty hands like me, vinyl dumbbells might not be a good choice.
I don’t use my dumbbells a lot so it is still intact but vinyl dumbbells break easily, especially with regular use.
Pros and cons of Vinyl Dumbbells
|Effective in building strength||Can break easily with regular use|
|Cheap, entry-level equipment for beginners||Slippery when you have sweaty palms|
|Eye-catching colors||Only up to 10kg (22lbs) in weight|
Like the vinyl dumbbells, neoprene dumbbells come at a lower weight capacity which ranges from 0.5kg to 10kg.
It is made of a cast iron frame which is then dipped in synthetic polymer, or neoprene.
It comes in different colors and also has a cheaper price point which is good for beginners.
Benefits of Neoprene Dumbbells
Neoprene dumbbells have more grip than vinyl dumbbells because of their matte finish. So this is a good alternative for vinyl dumbbells especially if you have sweaty palms.
Neoprene dumbbells are also effective in weight and strength training even with low weight capacity. If you are just starting out or want to increase your strength, this is perfect for you.
If you want to use these dumbbells regularly, you don’t have to worry about them being damaged easily. Synthetic polymers are very durable so neoprene dumbbells will last long.
Disadvantages of Neoprene Dumbbells
Neoprene dumbbells are generally harder to clean than vinyl dumbbells. Since it has a matte finish, you have to use a cloth soaked with soap and water to clean it.
And since it is polymer, it contains Chloroprene, which is a chemical that can cause cancer . Neoprene is generally safe as long as you don’t accidentally ingest your dumbbell. But make sure to store it away safely especially if you have kids or pets in your household.
Pros and cons of Neoprene Dumbbells
|Have a strong grip||Harder to clean|
|Durable||Can be toxic when ingested|
Cast Iron Dumbbells
Cast iron dumbbells are very popular in gyms and are used a lot in the fitness community.
People who have an advanced fitness level use cast iron dumbbells a lot as part of their training sessions. They use either fixed or adjustable dumbbells.
Fixed dumbbells have shorter handles that have a fixed amount of weight on each side, much like the vinyl and neoprene dumbbells. While the adjustable dumbbells have cast iron plates that are secured by screws which allows you to adjust the weight based on your preference.
Benefits of Cast Iron Dumbbells
Cast iron dumbbells can really benefit your training. They come in different weights and adjustable options.
Since most cast iron dumbbells are adjustable, you can easily adjust the weight plates depending on your needs. Most adjustable dumbbells have 4 plates in total included when you buy them.
So if you want to bring your gym training to your home, buying a cast iron dumbbell is a good choice. They are also made with high-quality materials which make them durable and last long.
Most cast iron dumbbells also have anti-slip handles which makes it easier to grip and not slip out of your hands.
Cast iron dumbbells can have a weight of up to 50 kg (110lbs) so if you are looking for more heavy lifting, you can have a go at cast iron dumbbells.
Disadvantages of Cast Iron Dumbbells
If you plan on adding a cast iron dumbbell to your home gym, make sure to check for the price because it costs more than vinyl and neoprene dumbbells.
A pair of cast iron dumbbells can cost up to $100 dollars. Of course, it will also depend on the weight. The higher the weight, the more expensive it will be.
Aside from the price, you have to be careful in handling a cast iron dumbbell. If not handled correctly, it might cause damage to yourself or the floor especially if you do not lower your dumbbells carefully.
Pros and cons of Cast Iron Dumbbells
|Wide range of weight capacity||Might cause damage if not handled properly|
You’d be surprised to hear that rubber dumbbells are actually made with metal. The metal weight is molded into a metal handle and then it is coated with rubber. Some are fully coated with rubber while others have coated weights with metal handles.
Rubber dumbbells are also commonly seen in gyms and home gyms. They have a fixed weight ranging from 2.5kg (5 lbs) to 50kg (110lbs), which makes them popular to use among the fitness community.
Benefits of Rubber Dumbbells
A rubber dumbbell is very durable due to its rubber coating around the weight. The rubber coat helps prevent corrosion and rust which is a good choice, especially for gyms that have clients that use these dumbbells daily.
They also have a wider range of weight capacity ranging from 2kg (5lbs) up to 56kg (125lbs). This is a good option for a lot of people, even for beginners because of the lower weight range.
Rubber dumbbells tend to be cheaper than cast iron dumbbells as well.
All in all, these types of dumbbells are safer to use because of the rubber coat.
Disadvantages of Rubber Dumbbells
A rubber dumbbell, especially if new, can have that distinct rubbery smell. If you don’t like the smell of rubber, this might put you off. But, the smell does go away in the long run.
Because it has a rubber coat, you can’t use this type of dumbbell if you are allergic to rubber or latex. You would be better off using a cast iron dumbbell for your safety.
Pros and cons of Rubber Dumbbells
|More safer to use than cast iron dumbbells||Can have a rubbery smell|
|Won’t leave scuff marks on the floor||Not a choice if you are allergic to rubber or latex|
|Have different weight options|
Hex Dumbbells vs Round Dumbbells vs 12-sided Dumbbells
You might notice that, unlike barbells, dumbbells have different weight shapes. Vinyl, Neoprene, Cast Iron, and Rubber dumbbells usually come in hex and round weights and sometimes are 12-sided.
As the name suggests, hex dumbbells have 6 sides. The advantage of this dumbbell is that it does not roll off the floor when you put it down. It is especially useful when you do push up grips as it is more secure.
You will most likely see a hex cast iron dumbbell or a round cast iron dumbbell used more often as it is very durable.
This is the classic shape of dumbbells.
Round dumbbells are to be handled carefully because they can be a hazard because they roll when put on the floor. It is also not an option for floor exercises such as the push-up grip.
Round dumbbells are usually more expensive than hex dumbbells. There are also more options for handles in round dumbbells.
This kind of dumbbell has a lot in common with hex dumbbells.
It won’t roll on the floor, which is good for safety. 12-sided dumbbells are mostly seen in gyms but many home gym owners like to buy this too.
Fixed weight dumbbells vs adjustable dumbbells
Most dumbbells have fixed weights on them while some have adjustable weights.
older adjustable weights have screws that you can take out so you can replace the weights. Most newer adjustable weights have a mechanism where you can adjust the weight via a dial, lever, or pin.
Adjustable weights are good if you want to have the convenience of changing the weights without buying a new set of dumbbells. It might get pricey if you do buy a new pair of dumbbells each time you want to increase your load.
Fixed weights are a good option if you work out more casually and don’t need to change dumbbells ever so often.
But it is good to have both if you have your own home gym. It’s nice to have that variety when working out.
How to choose the right dumbbell?
Choosing the right fitness equipment will always depend on your fitness goal.
If you are a beginner, choosing the right dumbbell for your workout journey can be daunting. Take a look at what you want to achieve before using your first dumbbell.
Choosing the correct weight is important especially if you are looking to strengthen your muscles, bulk up, or just stay fit.
For beginners, you should start with a lower weight. The different types of dumbbells we have in this article have different weight ranges for you to choose from.
Whether you are a beginner or advanced in your fitness journey, make sure to choose a weight that will not compromise your form once you get tired at the last few reps of your workout.
Remember that you can always adjust your weight anytime you feel strong enough.
Which dumbbell is best for workouts?
Again, this will solely depend on your fitness goals.
Take me for example, I prefer to use 2 kg vinyl dumbbells because that is the weight and type of dumbbell that is aligned with my fitness goals. I could buy a neoprene dumbbell if the grip of my current pair is bothering me too much. But at the moment, I can still handle it so I have no reason to buy a new pair.
There are also fixed and adjustable dumbbells you can choose from. If you feel like you will advance your weight and strength training quickly, you might want to use/buy an adjustable dumbbell so you can easily adjust the weight of your dumbbells.
If you are just a casual gym goer, then maybe a fixed-weight barbell will be enough for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Are dumbbells expensive?
Dumbbells can get a little pricey especially if you have fixed weights and need to get new ones to increase your load.
Of course, the cost will depend on the dumbbell material used and how heavy it can get. Heavy cast iron dumbbells will be more expensive than a neoprene dumbbell.
Are dumbbells enough to build muscle?
Yes, dumbbells can help you build muscles. Any type of equipment that offers resistance will increase your muscle gains as long as it is done correctly and in repetition. It will also depend on the intensity of your workout.
Does dumbbell shape matter?
We like to think so. Yes. Especially if you plan on doing push-up grips with your dumbbell, the shape will matter a lot.
Hopefully, this article gave you helpful knowledge and answered your questions about dumbbells.
You might prefer vinyl because it is more compact, or you might prefer cast iron ones because it gives you more options.
Whatever type of dumbbell you choose for your workout session, it will definitely help you in whatever fitness goal you set for yourself.
So, no matter what kind of dumbbell you get, you should be able to enjoy yourself. Remember to know your limits and exercise care while using a dumbbell.